Sharlene Smith Steadman’s pastor said the woman is dead because she probably opened her door to her killer.
A relative staying at the victim’s 142 Lady Bug Lane residence — off Ga. 202 between Ochlocknee and Coolidge — became suspicious of the pre-dawn visitor, followed him to the front door and saw him leave.
When the relative turned on the light, he saw Steadman lying on the living room floor bleeding from her head. “He said she was making snoring sounds, so he knew she was alive,” said Lt. Tim Watkins, Thomas County Sheriff’s Office chief investigator.
The visitor went to the relative’s room and turned on the light. The relative identified the individual.
“He knew him from previously,” Watkins said. “He thought it was strange. He said the person actually spoke to him.”
Because of a bad phone connection, the relative could not call 911 from the Steadman residence and went to a neighbor’s to call for help.
Thomas County Emergency Medical Service and sheriff’s deputies responded at 2:30 a.m. Steadman was pronounced dead at Archbold Memorial Hospital.
“We know the victim has blunt-force trauma on the head,” said Steve Turner, special agent in charge of the Thomasville regional office of the Georgia Bureau of investigation.
Turner said a preliminary autopsy report might be available today.
The sheriff’s office crime scene unit collected evidence that will be analyzed by the GBI crime lab.
While questioning the Steadman residence visitor Sunday, it was learned the individual had an outstanding warrant for violation of parole.
The man, who is being held at the Thomas County Jail, has not been charged in the death.
Others also were questioned as suspects. “We were able to verify their whereabouts,” Watkins explained.
Nether Watkins nor Turner would divulge what type of weapon was used in the death. The weapon has not been recovered, Watkins said.
A motive has not been established.
Watkins said it has not been determined if anything was taken from the house.
Steadman was charged earlier this year with taking more than $50,000 from a former employer.
The Rev. Ann Nunnally, a pastor at Victory Fellowship Church, said most people who knew Steadman would say she would give anyone the shirt off her back.
Nunnally had known Steadman for 16 years.
“I’ve seen her bring her whole family into church. They attend now. Through her efforts, they’re all there,” Nunnally said.
Steadman had three shih tzus that are being cared for by relatives and friends. The dogs need a home, Nunnally said.
“It appears to be a senseless murder, and our hearts go out to the family,” said Capt. Steven Jones, sheriff’s office public information officer.
Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1820.